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Tweets and quacks: Network and content analyses of providers of non-science-based anticancer treatments and their supporters on Twitter

Tweets and quacks: Network and content analyses of providers of non-science-based anticancer treatments and their supporters on Twitter
Tweets and quacks: Network and content analyses of providers of non-science-based anticancer treatments and their supporters on Twitter

Despite the consensus in the medical discipline that certain treatments lack scientific evidence and are worthless if not potentially dangerous, the promotion and selling of fake cures advertised as safe and effective has long plagued health care systems, praying on vulnerable patients and their loved ones. The web and social media are now playing a fundamental role in the propagation of non-science-based treatments and fraudulent medical claims, and in the rise of false health and lifestyle experts. This study combines criminological and computer science expertise to explore and critically analyze the Twitter presence of providers of non-science-based anticancer treatments and their active supporters in the English-speaking online community to investigate their structural relationships and to analyze the characteristics of the most popular actors. The features of the social network observed indicate that there is not a stable community of promoters and supporters of non-science-based medical treatments in the Twittersphere, suggesting the lack of a defined subculture and the presence of transient collectives rather than identifiable groups. Nonetheless, it is possible to observe dynamic conversational networks clustering around popular actors, tweets, and themes, prompting avenues for further research.

cancer, interdisciplinary research, medical misinformation, social media analysis, Twitter
2158-2440
Lavorgna, Anita
6e34317e-2dda-42b9-8244-14747695598c
Carr, Leslie
0572b10e-039d-46c6-bf05-57cce71d3936
Lavorgna, Anita
6e34317e-2dda-42b9-8244-14747695598c
Carr, Leslie
0572b10e-039d-46c6-bf05-57cce71d3936

Lavorgna, Anita and Carr, Leslie (2021) Tweets and quacks: Network and content analyses of providers of non-science-based anticancer treatments and their supporters on Twitter. SAGE Open, 11 (1). (doi:10.1177/21582440211003084).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Despite the consensus in the medical discipline that certain treatments lack scientific evidence and are worthless if not potentially dangerous, the promotion and selling of fake cures advertised as safe and effective has long plagued health care systems, praying on vulnerable patients and their loved ones. The web and social media are now playing a fundamental role in the propagation of non-science-based treatments and fraudulent medical claims, and in the rise of false health and lifestyle experts. This study combines criminological and computer science expertise to explore and critically analyze the Twitter presence of providers of non-science-based anticancer treatments and their active supporters in the English-speaking online community to investigate their structural relationships and to analyze the characteristics of the most popular actors. The features of the social network observed indicate that there is not a stable community of promoters and supporters of non-science-based medical treatments in the Twittersphere, suggesting the lack of a defined subculture and the presence of transient collectives rather than identifiable groups. Nonetheless, it is possible to observe dynamic conversational networks clustering around popular actors, tweets, and themes, prompting avenues for further research.

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More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 31 March 2021
Published date: 31 March 2021
Additional Information: Funding Information: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This study has been supported by the Web Science Institute Stimulus Funding, University of Southampton. Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2021. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
Keywords: cancer, interdisciplinary research, medical misinformation, social media analysis, Twitter

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 449638
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/449638
ISSN: 2158-2440
PURE UUID: 210eab3f-ab7c-4a4d-b383-c0253388f84a
ORCID for Anita Lavorgna: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8484-1613
ORCID for Leslie Carr: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-2113-9680

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 10 Jun 2021 16:30
Last modified: 11 Jun 2021 01:45

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